Gerry was born in Port Arthur, Texas on October 27, 1931, the eldest of seven children of Elvina and Joseph Verdun. Throughout her life Gerry possessed the implicit courage of someone who feels God's directing hand on her shoulder - unapologetic for who she was, fearless of venturing into life's uncharted territories, and simultaneously holding out love and hope for all those who crossed her path.
From a young age her primary ambition was to become a "nurse nun." At 17 she crossed the country and became one of the only black nuns among the Franciscan sisters of Mary in St. Louis, Missouri. As she fulfilled her dream of becoming a nurse, she also became the first in her family to attain a college degree. [All her siblings followed her in this achievement in quick succession, a tribute to their parents.] Several years later when the Church asked for volunteers to work in South America, Gerry eagerly set out to learn Spanish and went. She spent six years in Bolivia's Altiplano setting up and running an operating room in a small hospital. Upon returning to the US she left her order, answering another call to serve God outside the convent. She entered graduate school to become a pediatric nurse practitioner and within a few years she met Mike Jorissen, fell in love, and married. Joanne was born a couple years down the road and then a few years after that, Mike and Gerry met their son Craig and welcomed him into their life.
As a mother she was attentive, strict, affectionate, and loving above all. As a friend she was faithful and always generous of heart. As a wife she was a true partner - passionate, opinionated, supportive, loving, and quick to forgive. Mike and Gerry were married 43 years, admittedly few moments were hard, many were blissful and all of them are treasured. Her dementia first started to announce itself about 10 years ago. Since then she has been leaving us slowly. There have been many little goodbyes - to memories shared, to conversation, to laughter. Then on January 6th we reached the moment of our final goodbye. Goodbye to her sweet loving presence, to her gentle touch, the feel of her soft skin, and penetrating kind eyes. We are grateful to have had such a wonderful wife and mother who lived life with astounding grace and love. We are grateful for being granted a period to reciprocate some of the care she gave us. We are grateful that she has been released from her confusion, fatigue, and all the physical limitations big and small. Gerry is survived by her husband Mike, her daughter and son, four grandchildren, three sisters, and many nieces and nephews.
Please join us to celebrate her life, to pray for the repose of her soul, and to pray for those of us she left behind. Visitation will be on Thursday, January 12th from 5-8pm and Recitation of the Rosary at 7pm at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home on North Lamar. A Funeral Mass will be held on Friday, January 13th at 10am at St Theresa's Catholic Church, 4311 Small Dr.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to African Mothers Health Initiative (the nonprofit founded by Joanne to help vulnerable moms and babies in Malawi, Africa) http://www.africanmothers.org/donate, or to Huntington Disease Society of America http://www.hdsa.org in honor of Craig who is now experiencing the advanced stages of this horrible disease.